A heartbroken Staffordshire mum who lost her 12-year-old son to a brain tumour was devastated to discovered his twin brother had leukaemia just weeks later.
Julie Parton has described the last 18 months as ‘horrendous’ after first losing one child and then coming to terms with his brother facing the fight of his life.
Son Ben Parton had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme – an aggressive type of brain tumour with a survival prognosis of roughly 15 months – in March last year.
He was treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where he underwent 30 sessions of radiotherapy and two chemotherapy cycles.
But tragically, the youngster died eight months later in December 2019.
Then, in another devastating blow for the family, his identical twin brother Jack started to experience back pain and sickness just a few weeks later.
Initially his symptoms were put down to post traumatic stress disorder after the loss of his brother – but, barely a fortnight after Ben was laid to rest, their worst fears were confirmed as Jack was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Julie, aged 51, said: “It’s almost impossible to put into words how horrendous this has been.
“Having gone through everything with Ben, and just as we were grieving his loss, it was a hammer blow to find out only two weeks after his funeral that Jack was also fighting cancer.
“Although it seems wrong to say this, it was a relief to discover that Jack had leukaemia rather than brain cancer.
“It is some consolation that with Jack I can dare to feel there is more hope.
“Although I have been careful, and too scared I suppose, not to ask for his prognosis, I know that leukaemia is no longer the death sentence it once was.
“Thanks to the investment in research, Jack and other leukaemia patients now have hope of a cure. Ben was not so lucky, he never really stood a chance.”
She added: “My identical twin boys were always so close and alike in many ways but different in others.
“Ben was always the more confident and outgoing, and Jack looked to him to take the lead.
“If Ben was doing something or going somewhere then Jack felt safe and secure to follow.
“That has been one of the hardest things to bear.
“No-one should lose their child at the age of 12, and who can imagine the pain of a child of that age who has lost their twin?”
Since his diagnosis in January this year, Jack has also been receiving treatment at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and following a bone marrow aspirate this summer, was told her is currently cancer-free.
However, he will continue to have chemotherapy for the next two-and-a-half years, to ensure the disease does not come back.
Julie, from Cannock, added: “All things considered Jack is doing well although some days are incredibly tough.
“He misses Ben so much and I’m sure he would give anything for them to be on PlayStation together.”
In memory of her son, Julie is now campaigning with the charity Brain Tumour Research.
She is urging people to add their signature to a petition which calls for the national investment into brain tumour research to be increased to £35 million a year, bringing a parity of funding with other cancers including breast, prostate, and leukaemia.
Julie continued: “Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.
“Yet, historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
“I hope and pray that Jack will be okay, and I so wish that would have been the case for Ben. Without investment in research, families like ours have no hope.”
People can sign the petition by clicking here.